As a program officer, I read hundreds of proposals for different NSF programs and I saw many different approaches to writing a proposal evaluation section. From my vantage point, here are a few tips that may help to ensure that your evaluation section shines.
First, make sure to involve your evaluator in writing the proposal’s evaluation section. Program officers and reviewers can tell when an evaluation section was written without the consultation of an evaluator. This makes them think you aren’t integrating evaluation into your project planning.
Don’t just call an evaluator a couple weeks before the proposal is due! A strong evaluation section comes from a thoughtful, robust, tailored evaluation plan. This takes collaboration with an evaluator! Get them on board early and talk with them often as you develop your proposal. They can help you develop measureable objectives, add insight to proposal organization, and, of course, work with you to develop an appropriate evaluation plan.
Reviewers and program officers look to see that the evaluator understands the project. This can be done using a logic model or in a paragraph that justifies the evaluation design, based on the proposed project design. The evaluation section should also connect the project objectives and targeted outcomes to evaluation questions, data collection methods and analysis, and dissemination plans. This can be done in a matrix format, which helps the reader to see clearly which data will answer which evaluation question and how these are connected to the objectives of the project.
A strong evaluation plan shows that the evaluator and the project team are in synch and working together, applies a rigorous design and reasonable data collection methods, and answers important questions that will help to demonstrate the value of the project and surface areas for improvement.
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